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PROGRESSIVE Advisory Group member Chiara Giovannini shares views on standards for active and healthy ageing

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PROGRESSIVE works together with an Advisory Group (AG) of “standardisation” and “active and healthy ageing” experts and stakeholder organisations. AG member Chiara Giovannini, Senior Manager, Policy & Innovation at ANEC (the European Consumer Voice in Standardisation), provides her views on standards, how they can be useful for society as a whole and for more vulnerable consumers/citizens, main priorities for standardisation in the coming years, and why she decided to take part in the PROGRESSIVE Advisory Group.

How do you “feel” about or how well are you acquainted with standards?

ANEC is the European consumer voice in standardisation. We represent the collective European consumer interest in the creation of technical standards, especially those developed to support the implementation of European laws and public policies. Our mission is to ensure optimal levels of consumer protection, welfare and sustainability are reflected in standards.

ANEC has been at the forefront of European standardisation since it was established in 1995. Recognised by the European Commission under Annex III to Regulation (EU) 1025/2012, our representatives derive from national consumer organisations in 34 countries, and as technical experts, input to over 155 technical bodies at European and International level annually.

How do you think standards are useful for society as a whole and for more vulnerable consumers/citizens?

Standardisation is an essential component of modern life.

For manufacturers, standards remove barriers to trade, allow economies of scale to be exploited, aid innovation & competitiveness and help legal certainty. For consumers, standards are important as, when they are properly developed and applied, they can make our lives easier; the products we buy safer, interoperable and accessible to people of all ages and abilities. They can also improve product performance and help reduce environmental impacts. This is because standards determine the manner in which a product or a service is designed or provided, before it is placed on the market.

ANEC plays a unique role in fostering accessibility through standards. It has consistently pushed for the use of standards to enhance the safety and usability of products and services for older people and people with disabilities. It is a basic right to have access to products and services, and discrimination arises when older people and people with disabilities cannot use mainstream consumer products and services. Standards can help overcome this prejudice if Design for All principles are applied. This is all the more important noting the current demographic trends in Europe, where the increase of the number of people aged 65+ relative to those aged 15-64, is projected to rise from 29.6% to 51.2% in the 2016-2070 period.

What are, to your opinion, the main priorities for standardisation in the coming years to sustain active and healthy ageing?

All consumers, including vulnerable consumers, should be able to participate in the Digital Society and reap its benefits. However, due to its intrinsic characteristics, such as rapid technological developments and convergence, digital products and services represent a challenge for regulators. The role of standardisation, to ensure that consumers’ interests such as safety, quality of service and accessibility are adequately guaranteed, is crucial. Moreover, it is important for consumers to participate in ICT standardisation to ensure consumers’ rights and interests are at the heart of the process.

The ‘smartness or digitalisation’ of consumer products and services is an increasing trend but so far very few standards are reflecting it. Internet of Things still has to attain a good level of maturity as regards security, data protection, accessibility and safety, and this means there is now a window of opportunity to make sure that consumer (and other stakeholders) requirements are properly addressed.

What are your opinions or experiences on how to organize the standardization process and on how to involve end users/older citizens?

Although the European Standardisation System is open to the participation of all stakeholders, industry has the resources and most motivation to be involved. And while it is not in the interests of industry to ignore the voice of consumers if it wants to sell its products and services, there is a need for a check to ensure that the standards are ambitious enough in ensuring consumer protection & welfare, and meet the requirements of all consumers affected by their scopes; especially “vulnerable consumers” – children, older people, and persons with disabilities.

In order to fulfill our mission to raise standards of protection and welfare for all consumers, we require the European Standardisation System to allow us to be able to play by the same rules. We want to be able to effectively influence the content of the standards which are directly impacting the safety, interoperability and performance of consumer products and services.

Although there has been much useful progress by the European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) over recent months in ensuring a strengthened voice, one complementing the national delegation principle, for ANEC and the other Societal Stakeholders recognised under Annex III to Regulation (EU) 1025/2012, we believe it appropriate to underpin this progress with further actions, notably supporting Societal Stakeholders in international standardisation and ensuring their added visibility through a distinct category of partnership or membership.

Why did you decide to take part in the PROGRESSIVE Advisory Board?

Noting our continued work pushing for the use of standards to enhance the accessibility of products and services, the decision to take part of the PROGRESSIVE project came naturally. ANEC has been leading standards work in accessibility for almost 20 years, and as a key stakeholder for standardisation, we have developed an extensive network of contacts across industry, government, civil society organisations and other public bodies We hope to contribute with our recognised expertise to this important project.


About Chiara Giovannini

Chiara Giovannini works for ANEC since 2002, first as Programme Manager and presently as Senior Manager, Policy & Innovation. Apart from deputising for the Secretary General, she leads ANEC’s works on Accessibility and Digital Society and is responsible for horizontal and strategic policy issues. Prior to working for ANEC, Ms. Giovannini worked at Swiss Consumers Organisation. She holds a master degree in European Law. Ms. Giovannini represents ANEC at high-level events, committees and research Advisory Boards.

About ANEC

ANEC is the European consumer voice in standardisation. ANEC defends the European consumer interest in the creation of technical standards and European laws and public policies making use of standards.

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